Don’t get me started here…What is functional training? Let me tell you this… standing one-legged on a bosu ball and doing calf raises has nothing to do with functional training (it may have other benefits, especially if you have gammy ankles) at least not by my definition of functional. You may have seen lots of trainers doing things with rubber bands and and stability balls all under the pretext of functional training – but how functional is it really? My definition of functional training is stuff that makes your daily life easier.
So functional exercises, in my opinion, are: DEADLIFTS = Being able to pick heavy stuff up off the floor (a box, your kid, luggage in the airport) without straining your back. FARMER’S WALKS (a kettlebell in each hand) = being able to carry a couple of heavy bags of groceries home from the shops and up the stairs (four flights in my case – no lift). CHIN-UPS or as close as you can get to them…) = being able to haul yourself out of the swimming pool without looking having to make your way to that tiny little ladder. The list could go on…
Now I’m not saying that bands and balls don’t have their place – of course there are lots of reasons trainers might choose to use them, especially to work on balance and coordination or muscle imbalances. They are definitely functional in that they ‘perform a function’ it’sjust not what I consider ‘functional training’.
You hear flexibility and you instantly think “yoga? Or I can’t touch my toes?” You wouldn’t be alone… But static stretching, which is traditionally what people think of when they think of stretching, is only a small part of flexibility training. At the end of aerobics classes they always put on the slow track and do a few stretches to make everyone feel good and go away giving each other high fives – but do they actually perform a function? Well they do – they do make everyone feel good and go away feeling relaxed – but they probably don’t increase flexibility that much or even help a great deal with muscle soreness. (But we won’t talk about the muscle soreness part today because that’s another story.)
Well, little did I know that when I started this post I would be opening a can of worms…because it does seem that fitness professionals, physiotherapists and yoga instructors all have differing ideas on what functional flexibility is (not to mention it’s meaning in relation to businesses – but I know nothing about business). But to borrow a definition Functional Flexibility is the ability of the pieces of the skeleton to freely, easily, and fluidly float through the ranges of motion the joints and hinges were designed for. I got this from www.evolutiontohealth.com – you can take a look if you’re interested, there’s some interesting points but I think it’s a little hiptastic.
I am neither a yoga instructor, or a physio, but I see the importance and function of flexibility as enabling us to perform our exercises in the gym and in life outside of the gym through a greater range of motion. When we do that, we’ll be able to perform better and decrease risk of injury. In terms of flexibility training, it basically falls into a couple of categories: dynamic stretching before your workout and a couple of good static stretches post-workout, that you hold for a loooooong time – not just 5 seconds! Read about dynamic stretches you can do. Or join us for our 6 week flexibility program.